Writes a commenter of my defense of the NYT's/Wikipedia's handling of the David Rohde situation:
I'd be more understanding if it wasn't for the NYT double-standard.
When it comes to releasing information about our secret program to
track terrorists finances, they have no qualms about publishing that
info, in essence working against America's safety. So what happens when
terrorism hits home with them? Surprise, it's "hush-hush" to the point
of deleting public information again or again. I'm glad the reporter is
OK, but I'll never trust the NYT, and now wikipedia.
That's an important point, and one I should have addressed in my original post. So I'll do it here instead.
When the Times reports something like the warrantless wiretapping
story, they're operating on the assuption that the threat to privacy
is a massive public ill that outweighs any potential safety threat
stemming from their coverage. Whether you buy that argument or not, it's possible to make it.
In the Rohde case, in contrast, there's no
comparably grave public ill that followed directly from the
decision not to report. There are more abstract concerns, e.g. the invitation of the hypocrisy charge leveled here.
Then again, the potential downside of reporting Rohde's kidnapped
status--i.e., one man's life, versus (possibly) thousands or tens of
thousands--was smaller, if more imminent. That may sound callous, especially to Rohde's friends/families/colleagues, but it's true.
Readers, any thoughts on whether the Times and Wikipedia did the right thing? I still think the answer's yes, and I'd certainly want my employer advocating just as aggressively on my behalf if I were in harm's way. Still, it's a very thorny question.